During Barack Obama’s presidency, there had been a general agreement that the federal government would cover half the cost of building the tunnels, with New York and New Jersey sharing the other half. That commitment from the states still stands, said Anthony Coscia, the chairman of Amtrak.
The two states had intended to borrow much of their shares of the cost from the federal government, a standard practice in big, expensive projects. But the Trump administration ruled that such borrowings would not count as contributions from the states. The Biden administration quickly reversed that position in February, clearing one hurdle for the tunnel project.
A bigger hurdle was the lack of a response to the application from the project’s sponsor for a decision on its environmental impact statement. That decision could have come as far back as 2018, Mr. Coscia said.
But the federal Department of Transportation, which under President Trump was headed by Elaine Chao, did not respond to the application, despite repeated entreaties from Mr. Coscia and elected officials from New York and New Jersey. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democrat and now the majority leader, was an ardent champion of the Gateway project throughout the Trump administration’s time in office, to no avail.
“After nearly four years in political captivity, as of this moment, Gateway has officially been set free,” Mr. Schumer said on Friday. “It is a sigh of relief to know that this critical project, of national significance, is once again being taken seriously for its benefits to our entire economy, countless jobs and even safety.”
A few weeks ago, the Biden administration signaled that a decision on the project was coming soon. And its arrival offered long-awaited relief to those who have been planning the tunnel project for eight years.
“This approval means a lot of things,’’ Mr. Coscia said, “but what it really means is that it’s time to stop talking about this project and it’s time to start building it.”